Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding

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9780521736329: Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding

Alon Confino seeks to rethink dominant interpretations of the Holocaust by examining it as a problem in cultural history. As the main research interests of Holocaust scholars are frequently covered terrain - the anti-Semitic ideological campaign, the machinery of killing, the brutal massacres during the war - Confino's research goes in a new direction. He analyzes the culture and sensibilities that made it possible for the Nazis and other Germans to imagine the making of a world without Jews. Confino seeks these insights from the ways historians interpreted another short, violent, and foundational event in modern European history - the French Revolution. The comparison of the ways we understand the Holocaust with scholars' interpretations of the French Revolution allows Confino to question some of the basic assumptions of present-day historians concerning historical narration, explanation, and understanding.

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Book Description:

Alon Confino interprets the Holocaust by focusing on the culture and sensibilities that allowed the Germans to imagine a world without Jews. This book pinpoints aspects of Nazi and German imagination that made the persecution and extermination both conceivable and possible. Confino compares Holocaust research with historians' interpretations of the French Revolution to reveal these new insights.

About the Author:

Alon Confino is a professor of history at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1993. He has written extensively and influentially on historical memory, historical method and German history. Among his books are The Nation As a Local Metaphor: Württemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 (1997) and Germany As a Culture of Remembrance: Promises and Limits of Writing History (2006). As a visiting professor, Confino has taught at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and was recently a visiting fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. He has received grants from the Fulbright, Humboldt, DAAD, and Lady Davis foundations, the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University, the Social Science Research Council, the Israel Academy of Sciences, and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

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